I always wanted to be a police officer. Helping people has been my main goal in life, and it’s why I wanted to become an officer. I was never prouder than the day I graduated from the police academy.
I’ve worked as a patrol officer for the same department for 14 years, and the department felt like a home and a family. I even met my husband Joel on the job. When we got married, we immediately wanted to start a family. We had to try for a few years to have a child. Upon finding out I was pregnant, I couldn’t contain my excitement.
I told my Chief when I was 12 weeks pregnant, and gave him my doctor’s note. I had a healthy pregnancy and told him that I could still work without restrictions, but I wanted to discuss possible accommodations for when my pregnancy progressed to the point that I could not patrol the streets. I thought the Department would have a policy to accommodate pregnant workers, but I was wrong.
It turns out my chief didn’t even want to have a discussion. I was told that they didn’t want to set a precedent by accommodating pregnant workers and that I only had to be treated the same as someone who broke their leg off-duty.
I wanted to work. I felt I could contribute to the department – conducting witness interviews and helping with crime prevention outreach. There was no flexibility.
It got worse – in big and small ways. The department denied me maternity uniforms or properly fitting body armor that would allow me to patrol safely. I was even refused permission to move items from my patrol belt to other pockets to relieve the strain on my abdomen. As my pregnancy progressed, I had to worry about whether I could still button my uniform or whether my bulletproof vest would pop open at any time with only the slightest movement. I remember sitting in my patrol car with an ill-fitting uniform and a bulletproof vest that I could barely close. It seemed like I had to choose between my baby and my job.
After that day, my doctor gave me a note recommending that I switch to clerical work. As soon as I gave that note to my department, I was forced off the job. To compensate for my lost wages, I had to use all of my paid benefit time and draw on my pension early and at half pay.
I had a healthy, happy baby boy, and returned to work when he was about 10 weeks old. It still took too long to receive the proper equipment and uniform I need to do my work, and I received push-back when I needed to take breaks to pump breast milk.
I love my job and my department. The decision to file a lawsuit was very hard for me. But I knew I had to speak up. What happened to me was wrong and I don’t want anyone else to go through what I’ve been through. In 2017, police departments should know how to treat their pregnant officers. And they need to follow the law.